Strong reactions to the study
Reactions to the findings in this study have garnered some criticism from the equine community.
Scott Palmer, VMD, Dipl. ABVP, New Jersey Equine Clinic, Clarksburg, N.J., and chair of the AAEP Racing Committee: "I have a concern about the Australian paper. Personally, I do not think the study was designed appropriately to support
their conclusions. Their basic conclusion was that horses that were whipped did not run faster—that whipping horses doesn't
work. So, not only is it a bad thing, but what's more, it is ineffective. I believe there was a bias in the interpretation
of the results that were reported. I think that the more appropriate conclusion of the study would have been that whip use
in the final 200 meters of the races did not overcome the effect of fatigue at that point in a race. It is fair to say that
the use of the whip did not overcome the fatigue because these horses were slowing down at the end of the race whether or
not they were being whipped. That doesn't mean that using the whip during the race didn't make a difference in the outcome.
"If you were trying to accurately measure the effectiveness of whip use—that is to see if there was a direct correlation between
use of the whip and velocity during the race—the best choice of study design would not be a retrospective study because there
are a number of uncontrolled variables involved. A better study would be a cross-over design in which horses would be timed
in efforts both with and without use of whips. In order to achieve appropriate statistical power, a large number of horses
may be needed, depending upon what difference in speed you would be determining at the outset to be a significant outcome.
In my opinion, that would be a more appropriate way to do the study."
Jeff Blea, DVM, Sierra Madre, Calif., a former jockey: "The Australian paper's conclusions had nothing to do with the aims of the study. I was not impressed with the study. I'm
all for the whip's use; I'm completely against its abuse. I think the whip is a very vital piece of equipment, not only for
training, but for racing. It needs to be used appropriately and properly. It's a mean of guidance and encouragement for the
animal and keeping the rider and the horse out of trouble at times.
"I get really upset when I see horses cut in the flank because they've been hit inappropriately or in the eye when hit inappropriately
or out of aggression. But I am completely in favor of the rider having the whip to use as an aid in racing and training. It
is effective as an aid to encourage the horse, to ask them to switch leads. You're not going to make the horse run any faster
with the whip or get any more out of a horse with a whip, but you can encourage it if it's done properly."
Scott Hay, DVM, Teigland, Franklin and Brokken, Ft. Lauderdale Fla.: "I do think there is a necessity for jockeys carrying a whip, as there is in many disciplines for riders to use some type
of tool to guarantee control of the animal. There is a good case for both rider and horse safety to be able to use those types
"The things we need to watch out for are the abuses, of course. There are some abuses, and I think there has been a lot of
concentration on efforts to try to control those, not only in the racing discipline, but also in the 2-year-old in training
horse sales. They have made some regulations on whip use there as well. I think a discussion of whip use is worth looking
at, but I don't think a ban on whip use is the answer.
"The United States and the European Union have already had some significant problems with the new rules for whip use regarding
the number of times the horse can be struck. In the stress of a very competitive horse race, it is probably pretty difficult
for a jockey to actually keep count of the number of times he is hitting a horse with the whip.
"I think we in the U.S. need to be sensitive to looking into the abuse of use of the whip. Stewards are probably the right
people to be making those judgments. I'm not sure that counting the number of strikes is proper, but I've never been on the
back of a Thoroughbred racehorse. So I think that is probably best reserved for those who are more qualified, who have done
so, either exercising or riding in races—people who are more accustomed to knowing what using a whip during a race is all